Solo: The Freedom of the Road

There is nothing sweeter than walking out the automatic doors of an airport into a city full of possibility…where no one is expecting you.

Stepping out into an April breeze (usually brutally early in the morning) with no one behind you, no deadline, no looming schedules.  No one expecting you.

Today, I read a review of a book by Clara BensonNo Baggage, that tells the story of her first trip with only the clothes on her back. She experiences moving through Europe never having to stop, pack, organize all that ‘stuff’.  That is a particular kind of freedom on the road of being light, nimble, unencumbered.

For me, it’s not the actual baggage, though the freedom of traveling light is part of it.  It’s aloneness. I love to travel on my own but expressing this deep longing sounds disloyal to friends and family I love and who I love to travel with.  Why do I crave this time apart and what is this freedom ‘from’?

There is a spiritual release to being alone in the world – not avoiding the world at home but having freedom to  remember. It’s time set apart  to remember who you are when you are away from your responsibilities, from your job, from your habits, and from your recurring role in the weekly sitcom of Life.

I have questions.  Am I kind when no one knows my name? What do I really want to do when I’m in charge of the day?  How have I changed? What am I good at? What is my role in the day…if it’s not already ordained by my title and my name?  At the end of the day, what am I writing home about?

A few years ago, I spent several days in Paris. It was actually April in Paris and it is not at all overrated. I took the first afternoon to just wander. I headed for the Marais neighborhood with no plan and no map, everything changing and recalculating with each step. Along the way I found a beautiful jewel of a store stocked entirely with products of monasteries and convents.

After a great conversation with the manager (and a haul of honey, needlework and candles), she showed me an inconspicuous passage from the store into the very back of the cathedral that faced the next block. Down winding hall and up a stair, I found my way to a balcony where I could listen to the choir prepare for a concert.

That afternoon was wonderful in many ways but there was a moment of clarity as the light came through all those bright panes in the balcony and the music rolled up the stones.  I was still me, regardless of the nation or the accent or the job or my name, finding the perfect jar of lavender honey… and the back door into the Church.


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